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BBQ Tricks for Avoiding Heartburn

Just because it's hot outside doesn't mean you have to feel the heat of heartburn when enjoying foods of the season.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Matthew Hoffman, MD

Just because it's hot outside doesn't mean you have to feel the heat of heartburn when enjoying foods of the season.

Ever chow down at a family picnic, come home, shower, lie down, and feel a burning pain in your chest and acid crawling up your throat like a red-hot snake? These are symptoms of ever-threatening heartburn!

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Rodger A. Liddle, MD, professor of medicine and gastroenterologist at Duke University, tells WebMD that many favorite cookout foods -- such as tomatoes, barbeque, cocktails or beer, and citrus -- can make acid reflux worse, although they don't "cause" this much-dreaded condition.

More than 60 million adults experience heartburn at least once a month. It's believed that more than 15 million Americans suffer from it daily.

Although it has become the staple of commercials and sitcoms, heartburn can limit activities and productivity. And to those lying there in the dark, or burping through a long afternoon meeting, heartburn is far from a joking matter. In its most severe forms it can eat away at the esophagus, which can lead to esophageal cancer.

Better to recognize heartburn and avoid or treat it.

Causes of Heartburn

To digest food, the stomach is flooded with acid. Between the stomach and the esophagus is a sphincter muscle that lets the food get to the stomach but then closes to keep the stomach acid from flowing back up the throat. If this muscle becomes loose or doesn't work properly, excess stomach acids can backflow into the esophagus, making it burn and causing the symptoms of heartburn.

The body tries to counter this not only with the sphincter, explains Liddle, but with saliva, which is alkaline. But sometimes these mechanisms are overcome by circumstance. Some factors that make heartburn more likely:

Foods That Trigger Heartburn

Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, author of Tell Me What to Eat If I Have Acid Reflux and of a new DVD titled The Heartburn-Friendly Kitchen, tells WebMD that trigger foods vary from person to person.

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Heartburn: An Inside Guide

Learn what's causing your burn -- and what you can do to stop it.

A prime heartburn trigger for me is: